General dentistry aims to prevent issues like tooth decay and gum disease before they occur. According to the National Library of Medicine, tooth decay is the top reason that people seek dental care, and it is the second most common health issue right next to a common cold.
Why preventing tooth decay is a priority in general dentistry
Tooth decay is produced by bacteria in the mouth converting the sugars in food particles into acids that break down teeth. It starts with the de-mineralization of the enamel. Then, tiny holes called cavities start to form on teeth.
Untreated tooth decay will continue to eat away at a tooth until it reaches the pulp chamber. This part of a tooth contains its nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. It is the innermost layer of a tooth’s crown, and it is closed off from the rest of the tooth to safeguard its contents. Tooth decay reaching the pulp chamber leaves these soft tissues vulnerable to infection.
If left untreated, an infection in a tooth can expand to other parts of the body, like the brain, which can have life-threatening consequences. Tooth decay also increases a person’s risk of developing gum disease because the same type of bacteria causes both conditions. Gum disease leads to the deterioration of the bone and tissue structures that anchor teeth. It is also linked to various health conditions, like heart disease, diabetes, and strokes.
Preventing tooth decay
General dentistry aims to prevent tooth decay and gum disease by educating patients about proper oral hygiene and performing appropriate preventative treatments. Good oral hygiene goes a long way toward preventing tooth decay. It includes brushing teeth at least twice a day and flossing once daily. This gets rid of some of the bacteria in the mouth and the acids that they produce. It also gets rid of plaque before it hardens into tartar.
Oral hygiene products that contain fluoride give patients an extra level of protection against tooth decay. These products help re-mineralize the teeth enamel that the acids made by oral bacteria have weakened. Treatments that a dentist might recommend to help prevent tooth decay include:
Teeth cleanings: These involve using a scaler tool to remove plaque and tartar deposits on teeth. A cleaning is a non-invasive procedure that does not cause pain, and it reduces the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
Fluoride treatments: These typically involve having the patient bite down on a fluoride solution or swish it around their mouth for about a minute. It infuses teeth with fluoride and helps re-mineralize their structures. It also protects teeth from decay for up to six months.
Dental sealants: These involve painting liquid composite resins onto a patient’s teeth. This forms a barrier that prevents acids made by bacteria from making direct contact with the biting surfaces of teeth. It can protect patients from decay for years.
Frequently asked questions about tooth decay
Worried about tooth decay? Let’s take a look at some commonly asked questions:
1. Is tooth decay a sign of poor oral hygiene?
Tooth decay can be a sign of tooth decay, even though it can be caused by other things like consuming too much sugar. It occurs when plaque and tartar get to coat teeth unchecked, though tartar in particular is a problem, since brushing or flossing cannot get rid of it. Plaque turns into tartar when left on teeth for more than 24 hours.
Plaque contains bacteria and the acids they make. These acids cause tooth decay. Practicing good oral hygiene helps get rid of plaque on teeth surfaces before it causes permanent damage to teeth or turns into tartar.
Good oral hygiene includes brushing a minimum of twice a day and flossing daily. The most important time you can brush is right before going to bed. That gets rid of all the bacteria and acids that have accumulated during the day before the most vulnerable period for teeth due to reduced saliva production during sleep.
2. Can tooth decay always be treated?
Yes. Dentists have ways to treat decayed teeth regardless of how badly damaged the tooth is. Treatments like composite bonding and fillings are recommended for minor damage, while treatments like crowns and root canals are used for severely decayed teeth.
In some cases, extracting a tooth is the most viable option. The extracted tooth is then replaced with an oral prosthetic like an implant. Extraction often becomes an option when tooth decay leads to an infection that threatens to spread to other parts of the body.
Keep your teeth healthy
Good oral hygiene and these preventative treatments are all that you need to keep your teeth decay-free. Call or visit our Bayside clinic to learn more about preventative dentistry.
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